Native American fashion has predominantly been dictated by two factors over hundreds of thousands of years: Climate conditions and religious beliefs. Other influences, such as the arrival of European settlers, also played a role in the ever-evolving Native American fashion landscape.
The earliest forms of Native American fashion derived from nature, as resources such as animal skins and plant fibers were used to create clothing. Some also believed they could gain strength and character by adorning themselves in parts of an animal.
Respect and admiration for nature also played a part in the creation of diverse clothing styles. Clothing honoring Native American fashion can be found preserved in museums today.
Native American Fashion and Climate
The climate in which people lived dictated early Native American fashion. In warmer climates, clothing wasn’t always a necessity. Women wore little more than skirts and some men wore nothing at all. Fashion was more prevalent in cooler climates, as some men wore tunic shirts while women wore dresses. In extreme cold conditions, hooded jackets and mittens were a regular part of Native American fashion to combat freezing conditions.
Native American Fashion and Religion
Religious beliefs also played a major role in Native American fashion. Only priests could wear certain head dresses in some tribes. In fact, a priest was the only one permitted to even touch some head dresses in some cases.
Masks were also a big part of Native American fashion. The masks were commonly used during religious ceremonies and sacred cultural dances. In fact, dramas and dances today still feature masks. Some tribes would go as far as not pray to their gods unless they were wearing masks.
Interest in Native American fashion continues to be widespread today. In fact, a magazine dedicated entirely to Native American fashion was created and made available in October 2012.